Don't be afraid to reach for the brass ring: Transitioning to new software is no longer scary

When it comes to making software changes, lots of dentists have lost their nerve—and you can’t blame them. Andy Jensen addresses the biggest fears of ditching your server and moving to the cloud.

Orville Wright had sufficient reason never to fly again. With US Army Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge as a passenger, Orville had been at the controls of his newfangled flying machine when a wooden propeller suddenly shattered. The flying contraption fell 100 feet, killing Lieutenant Selfridge and sending Orville to the hospital with a broken leg and broken ribs.

While recuperating, Orville was visited by a concerned friend who asked, “Has it got your nerve?”

“Nerve?” repeated Orville with some puzzlement. “Oh, do you mean, ‘Will I be afraid to fly again?’ The only thing I’m afraid of is that I can’t get well soon enough to finish those tests next year.” And the rest is history. Had Orville called it quits, chances are a Frenchman would have led the world into modern aviation. Orville wasn’t afraid to reach for the brass ring despite everything else.

What is a brass ring?

In earlier times, carousel riders were challenged to grab a brass ring from off a hook as they passed by it. Grabbing the brass ring required some dexterity. The more daring you were, the more likely you were to grasp the ring and win a prize.

Today’s brass ring is in the cloud. I believe most dentists would say that the cloud is the present technology standard. However, “belief” in the cloud may not be the sticking point for most doctors; rather, it’s an Orville Wright-type of experience that’s holding up the move.

I’ve spoken to doctors who are a bit jaded about moving from one management system to another. They are scarred by glitchy data conversions and burdensome licensing fees. When it comes to making changes, they’ve lost their nerve. And you can’t blame them.

In the ’90s, data conversions were plagued by rudimentary controls. Upfront licensing fees were as high as $7,000, with additional monthly fees in the hundreds of dollars. Training was a two- to three-day ordeal of playing host while drinking from a firehose. There was plenty of opportunity for a wooden propeller to shatter and ruin the ride.

It’s 2017—things have changed

Moving from one management system to another is not as scary as it was in the ’90s. For example, data conversion tools have greatly matured in the last 20 years. Gary Burke, the data services lead at Curve Dental, perked up when I asked him how things had changed. Gary has more than 20 years’ experience in the business. “The quality has greatly improved,” he said. “In the 90s, if the doctor’s data was corrupted, there was little that could be done to successfully transfer it to the new software. Today’s tools make it possible to extract more data from the old system. And it’s much faster.”

Payment terms have also changed. SaaS (software as a service) has replaced the old-school user license fee. Instead of paying thousands up front, practices pay a much smaller monthly subscription that generally covers all services. Software, customer service, backup, upgrades, and other services that were typically paid for separately are now all covered in one all-you-can-eat price. The thought that you need to save up to buy new software is no longer true.

Perhaps training has changed the most. It’s certainly the case at my company. The days of playing host to an on-site trainer (and paying for those travel costs) are over. Remote training has two significant advantages: it’s cheaper, and it’s more effective. Remote training allows your practice to take in bite-size chunks of new information, which is more effective for retention than drinking from a firehose. Your team will learn something new, master that task, and move on.

If you wear scars from your last effort to modernize your practice, that’s understandable. Improved data conversion, easier payment terms, and more effective, less-intrusive training will make for a better experience. Curve Dental has developed an implementation map that guides every one of our customers from old to new in a structured, step-by-step process. If you send me a note I’d be happy to share it with you.

We can all learn a thing or two from Orville Wright. He was more afraid of failure than he was of physical injury. I suppose he understood this important principle: Stay calm and keep your technology modern.


Andy Jensen is vice president and chief marketing officer at Curve Dental Inc., a software development company that provides web-based management solutions for dentists and dental groups. Contact him at andy.jensen@curvedental.com. Read more at curvedental.com/blog.

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